Whatever Turns You On

By George Holmes, editor-in-chief

An interesting picture of jewelers’ 1996 interests and concerns is shaping up as early registrations for the conference program at the JCK Las Vegas show start to come in. Not unexpectedly, getting more bang for the buck is the topic that arouses the most interest, no matter which way a speaker chooses to zero in on the subject.

As of early March, five of the forty-one sessions were completely booked. (Experience has shown, however, that even sell outs have some no shows, so if you haven’t received a ticket, don’t despair. Show up on site and you may well get a seat anyway.) The first to fill up was “How to plan your pricing strategies,” a presentation by Andy Johnson who runs the Diamond Cellar in Columbus, Ohio. Pricing clearly is a critical industry concern. This month’s letters column, for example, includes a piece by Glenn Rothman, president of Di-Star Ltd., on the issue of pricing and profitability in the diamond industry. His commentary hit a real nerve judging by the flood of mail Rothman received from those who believe, often fervently, that increasing margins is an absolute necessity for jewelers. A lot of other jewelers obviously want to learn about Andy Johnson’s success at buying right, pricing right and promoting right.

Another early sell-out is the session on how to create an effective marketing plan, by Richard Horne, president of Shreve & Co. in San Francisco. Like all of our speakers, this seasoned and skillful industry player likes to share knowledge and good advice rather than keep it all to himself. Laura Laaman, a consultant with Executives Trainers in Rochester, N.Y., who made her first Las Vegas show appearance last year, is back this year with a message on “selling for profit” – which is another early sell-out. Laaman will focus on motivating a selling team to think about the bottom line as well as about total dollar sales.

Along with increased profits usually comes increased productivity. And that’s the topic of another session enjoying early popularity – this one by John Michaels, CEO of Michaels Inc. in Waterbury, Conn., and one of a number of Jewelers Education Foundation speakers at the conference. The JEF, as in past years, will add a special dimension to the program through its educational mission of recruiting savvy jewelers who can speak to their colleagues as men and women who’ve been in the trenches and solved tough retailing problems successfully. This year’s JEF representatives will include, in addition to Michaels, Tom Tivol of Tivol Jewels in Kansas City, Mo., and Mark Moeller of R. F. Moeller Jeweler in St. Paul, Minn. Mark will be back with his fabulous theater-in-the round role-playing performances featuring his own staff. It’s such a crowd pleaser we’re scheduling it twice on the program.

Which others sessions are getting high early response? Well, one on the Internet and how a jeweler can use it as a communications tool is high on the list. It’s already sold out. This talk is by Steve Benson, a newcomer to the JCK group through our association, as of last fall, with International Diamond Publications of Ramat Gan, Israel. Steve is IDP’s editor in chief and has a passionate interest in the working of electronic communication.

Along with the usual seminar sessions, the 1996 program also will feature a series of workshops where smaller groups (up to 120 registrants) can become more directly involved and receive more personal attention. Two of these already are full – the opening-day program on new trends in store design, visual merchandising and retail technology and the second-day event on buying and selling antique and estate jewelry. Other workshops on marketing also are filling up quickly.

In a fine compliment to the panelists taking part, there’s also a big rush for seats to a new JCK Show feature – the Town Meeting on the evening of the conference’s opening day. In planning this session our goal was to assemble a group of industry leaders who have the confidence, authority and fortitude to answer any audience question frankly and without sugar coating. It should be quite a night! Things may never be the same after we hear Harold Tivol, Herb Bridge, Bob Pliskin, Mary Forté, Nate Light and moderator Doug Hucker give it their all. If you have a question you’d like to put to this group, just drop us a line or give us a call and we’ll be glad to pass it along.